December 31, 2005
No trip to Cape Town would be complete without a trip to Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela spent 27 years as a prisoner (http://www.robben-island.org.za/ ). You need to reserve tickets for this trip and boats generally run about every ½ hour. It is easier and faster to make your reservation at the Tourist Office downtown. They will give you your reservation number. The boat for Robben Island leaves from the Victoria and Albert Water Park. If you tell a taxi driver where you are going, they will let you off at the closest access area. We called a Rikki. We have to check the e-mail again as EBAB sms’ed us an hour after we left the last time to say they had another booking. We also need to make sure that Balazs bought our yearly transport tickets.
When we got to the waterfront, there was a mob of people who were trying to buy tickets for that day, but they were sold out for a week at that point. I was able to go to the head of the line and had to show the credit card I had used to purchase the tickets with. We had an hour before boarding, so we went for breakfast right next door at a pancake house. Disappointingly, they only had one pancake on the menu, which I ordered. It was a thick pancake wrapped around bacon and eggs. It was delicious. Ron had ordered clotted cream and scones.
The boat to the island is a typical tour boat. There is no commentary and the ride is 45 minutes long. You are assigned a time to return with your boat’s name on it. They say it is important that you catch the boat for which you are assigned, but we heard on less crowded days, you can ask to catch the next one. When you arrive on the island, they either direct you to a bus or to walk to the prison. Eventually, you will do both, so it does not matter which you start with.
We toured the prison first with a guide named Vince who had been a prisoner there for 8 years. All of the guides are former prisoners. The prison cells were 2×2 meters, while the dog cages were 3×3 meters. The walls are all grey, the nutrition was poor and quantity was based on a prisoner’s race. They were given a thin pad to sleep on.
There were some older black ladies on the tour who could barely walk. They seemed to be making a pilgrimage to a shrine. They took pictures of everything and were speaking amongst themselves in an African language. People were taking pictures of a cell thinking it was Mandela’s, but after we passed by the guide told us his cell was number 27. They were photographing cell number 5.
The bus tour showed all of the current buildings and told of the history of the island. There are a number of people who still live there. There is also an African penguin colony there, where visitors can walk the boardwalk to observe them. It was a hot day and all of them were at the beach.
After taking the boat trip back to the waterfront, we walked around with valiant ideas of hanging around there until midnight for the fireworks. We stopped at Mugs and Beans for lunch. I had quesadillas and Ron had a special omelet with spicy meat and potatoes. We went into more shops and then went to see the movie “Lord of War” with Nicholas Cage. It was about gun runners to 3rd World countries. Sad, but most probably accurate in many ways.
We left the movie at 7:00 pm, but we were fading and knew we could not make it until midnight. We walked to a gay bar, which was a major disappointment. It was also a restaurant and very busy. There were no special looking men there, though it advertises itself as the place where the beautiful people go to meet.
When we called for a taxi, we were told it would be 45 minutes. We walked to KFC for a snack pack for later and then called the taxi again and waited. Many of the roads were blocked off for parades that were not until Jan. 2nd. There was tons of traffic and the driver did not know exactly where he was going, so we did not get back to the house until around 9:00 pm. We had forgotten our coleslaw on the taxi back seat after it fell out of the bag. We were left with our two little chicken breasts.
Reading and writing occupied our time until midnight, and then we went out on the street to watch the fireworks from the waterfront. We could see them over the rooftops. They were just okay; nothing spectacular and not worth staying down there for making getting home again a trial. Then we went to bed, not very exciting.